“E-Books in Libraries, 2013 Has Been a Year of Small Victories and Bigger Battles”
Public librarians have applauded the increased access to e-books now being offered by the big five publishers—most recently Macmillan, which has made its entire backlist of 11,000 titles available for lending. But the recent good news, librarians say, should not obscure the fact that the present system, with its plethora of licensing models and platforms, remains untenable.
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Note: Thanks to Mike for including a comment from me in this column.
A Few Additional Comments
“Netflix-like” services for ebooks are something that we’ve been talking about on infoDOCKET for two years. Btw, it’s not only large services like Oyster and Scribd that focus on bestsellers and other popular materials but other services that will offer “all you can read” ebook collections for specific groups, genres, and interests. These services also make the entire process easy.
We all know that many users don’t have the time, interest, computer skills, etc. to jump through some of the many hoops one needs to jump through to access ebook content via the library. Yes, it is getting better but work still needs to be done.
My point is not that libraries as sources for popular ebook titles will entirely go away. For a number of reasons, including cost, some will continue to access this content from a library plus not every book will be available.
However, I do believe that the library community, especially the public lib community, needs to consider what these types of services MIGHT and COULD mean in the long term in areas like budgeting, collection building, etc.
In other words, we need to be out in front on the topic and understanding what it means and could mean vs. reactionary, as is often the case with libraries. Not paying attention and discussing the issue is what the library tends to do, react to the situation vs. planning and being proactive.
In a relatively short period of time services like Netflix, Spotify, Amazon, and others are what a growing number of people use to access massive amounts of content. Europe has 24 Symbols. The Kindle Owners Lending Library has grown from 5,000 to 400,000 titles in less than two years.
Also, as we’re now seeing now with Amazon Video and Netflix these and others services will be places to find and access exclusive content. Don’t be surprised to see the same sort of thing with ebooks.
Plus, these services and others (there are more coming) do something that libraries also need to consider.
They take mindshare away from the library as a source for all types of content and overall, promote the idea that libraries and librarians are not relevant.
Of course, we know this is no true but we need to do a better job of explaining and we need to start now.
Some of this is caused by the library community (as a whole) having little or no unified message to market and promote what we do and how we do it to the public. Libraries are poor at marketing and these companies are good at it.
Also, don’t be surprised to see various services partnering up to offer a variety of content (music, movies, and ebooks) for one price. Amazon, on their own, has the power to do this and they’re doing it if you are an Amazon Prime subscriber (second day delivery of physical items and loads of content).
Btw, Amazon added a new service for Prime subscribers yesterday. They’re going to rollout Sunday delivery in the U.S. at no extra charge.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.